“Pipelines may be straight, but the stories behind them have many twists and turns.”
- Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr
Justin Trudeau closed up 2016 with the bombshell announcement that he was approving both the Kinder Morgan and Line 3 pipelines. Together they add up to almost 1.5 million barrels a day of added capacity to ship some of the dirtiest oil on earth from the Alberta tar sands. He proclaimed that building these pipelines was an essential part of the government's plan to help save the environment while ensuring economic benefits for workers and their families. It doesn't take a lot of looking into to find out that Trudeau's pipeline promises are built on lies and manipulations.
It Does Not Add Up
“You also must have known that allowing two pipelines to carry over a million barrels a day of additional tar sands production is not the way we are going to solve the climate crisis. No one could truly believe that more oil will help us get off oil. It’s too ludicrous to even contemplate.”
- Grand Chief Stewart Phillip in an Open Letter to Justin Trudeau
What's most important to realize, is that these pipelines are part of an effort by oil corporations to lock us into the same dirty oil economy which got the planet into this mess in the first place. Right now oil sands producers are shipping less than the current pipeline capacity - more than 400,000 barrels per day under! However, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is planning for 3.7 million barrels per day of oil sands production by 2030, up from 2.4 million barrels per day in 2015. They then plan on shipping 4.3 million barrels per day by 2040. There is no way Canada could meet any reasonable climate targets this way. Especially since per barrel emissions actually grew by 25 per cent in the last decade.
We need to remember that conservative scientific estimates show that even if all of the existing oil wells and coal mines around the world are fully exploited, it would release enough CO2 into the atmosphere to take the planet above the 2 C temperature rise countries including Canada and the United States have agreed must be avoided to save the planet.
“Putting in a pipeline is a way of preventing oil by rail, which is more dangerous and more expensive … The pipelines are very much integrated into our Pan-Canadian framework on fighting climate change.”
- Justin Trudeau, interview with Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province Editorial Boards
Trudeau has repeated this lie over and over again, even though he knows it's just not true. At its very peak, oil-by-rail accounted for less than 7% of total Canadian oil exports. Canadian oil corporations don't have anywhere close to the ability or interest to ship this way, but they have been happy to use this fear of oil-train disasters to try and convince people of the necessity of new pipelines.
There is also the misleading assumption that there is absolutely no alternative to extracting the expensive, dangerous and environmentally destructive tar sands oil. Is this really so necessary? Since 2009 in the US, the cost of solar power has been cut by nearly half and wind power has fallen by two thirds. These installations are now cheaper than coal in many places. These also aren't the only new technologies, or the only realistic proposals to create jobs and without destroying the planet. The International Monetary Fund estimates that energy subsidies in Canada top an incredible $34 billion each year in direct support to oil producers and uncollected tax on externalized costs. Imagine if those resources were put towards environmental friendly initiatives instead!
No Consent No Pipeline
“The federal government also reiterates its commitment to renewed nation-to-nation, government-to-government, and Inuit-to-Crown relationships with First Nations, the Métis Nation and Inuit, based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership, consistent with the Government of Canada’s support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including free, prior and informed consent.”
- Introduction to Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change
No matter how much Justin Trudeau tries to wiggle around it, more than two-thirds of indigenous nations whose land the Kinder Morgan pipeline would cross have not consented to the pipeline, and many such as the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh are part of leading the opposition it. Trudeau has now come out to say “they don't have veto power” - meaning he would try to move forward with the pipeline without the promised “free, prior and informed” consent of indigenous nations. He can't have it both ways – celebrate a “new relationship” and “reconciliation” only with the indigenous nations who he agrees with while ignoring and many disrespecting the others.
While Kinder Morgan is promising millions of dollars to many indigenous nations which face extreme poverty if they agree to the pipeline, Erica Violet Lee, a student and writer from Saskatoon and Thunderchild First Nation points out that, “the reason we’re living in poverty now is because of centuries of violent attempts to remove us from our lands. Native people deserve safe housing, clean water, and healthy food to eat without having to sell our souls to TransCanada, Kinder Morgan, De Beers, and Enbridge in order to pay for it.”
"And as I said in making the announcement, these approvals are a major win for Canadian workers, for Canadian families and for the Canadian economy."
- Justin Trudeau, December 21 at Calgary Chamber of Commerce
There is an important distinction to be made between corporate profits, and the earnings of regular poor and working people. Just because corporate profits go up, does not mean our wages do. In fact, it's been exactly the opposite. Unless you are one of Canada's top-paid 100 CEO's and earn 9.5 million a year. According to Global News, “That works out to 193 times the average Canadian’s wage of $49,510. Put another way, someone who makes $9.5 million will have made the average Canadian’s salary for the year by 11:47 a.m. on January 3.”
Oil corporations don't care about the livelihoods of their workers. 170 workers at an oil camp lodge recently lost their jobs the day after Christmas because the Civeo corporation said they had found cheaper non-union contractors. The employees had already given up increases to pay and travel expenses, but the company demanded a 44 percent pay reduction. Civeo had recently posted an 11% increase in lodge revenues!
We Won't Stop Until They Do
Justin Trudeau's late December public relations trip to Vancouver to justify the pipeline decision involved a secretive schedule and no public appearances. Regardless, he was “welcomed” the night before his arrival by hundreds of protesters who gave up family holiday plans and braved the icy streets to send a strong message that he wasn't welcome. Similarly, Kinder Morgan's recent attempt to hold a public information session in the suburb of Coquitlam came to an abrupt end when protestors peacefully entered the hotel where the session was being held. When it became obvious that those opposed to the pipeline were a much larger number than all of the staff and supporters combined, supervisors told staff to leave. 20,000 people have also now signed the the Coast Protectors Pledge that, "With our voice, in the courts or the streets, on the water or the land. Whatever it takes, we will stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion."
The message is clear: Wherever Justin Trudeau or Kinder Morgan goes to try and justify or build this pipeline, we will be there to make sure the united voice of indigenous nations, students, poor and working people is heard. This pipeline will not be built!
“No Consent No Pipeline!”
“From Standing Rock to BC, Make the Land Pipeline Free!”
Follow Thomas Davies on Twitter: @thomasdavies59
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